King Kong

king-kong

Universal (2005) 188 min. PG-13 

Director: Peter Jackson

Screenplay: Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh based on King Kong by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace

Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie; Editing: Jamie Selkirk; Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Simon Bright & Dan Hennah; Costumes: Terry Ryan; Score: James Newton Howard

Stars: Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), Jack Black (Carl Denham), Adrien Brody (Jack Driscoll), Andy Serkis (Kong/Lumpy), Kyle Chandler (Bruce Baxter), Jamie Bell (Jimmy), Evan Parke (Ben Hayes), Colin Hanks (Preston), Thomas Kretschmann (Cpt. Englehorn), John Sumner (Herb), Lobo Chan (Choy), Craig Hall (Mike), William Johnson (Manny)

When reigning Best Actress Brie Larson began absenting herself from the award show circuit last season, I was aghast to learn it was due to her prior commitment to Skull Island, the latest contribution to standing King Kong lore. Like most movie monsters Kong just doesn’t want to stay dead, so considering that Peter Jackson’s prior 2005 adaptation just passed its 10th anniversary, the time has come to revisit a modern classic.

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The Revenant

images20th Century Fox (2015) 156 min. R

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Screenplay: Mark L. Smith & Alejandro G. Iñárritu; based in part on novel by Michael Punke

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Stephen Mirrione

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Caitlin Jane Parsons & Hamish Purdy; Costumes: Jacqueline West; Score: Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Cpt. Andrew Henry), Will Poullter (Jim Bridger), Duane Howard (Elk Dog), Forrest Goodluck (Hawk, Glass’ son), Arthur Redcloud (Hikuc), Melaw Nakehk’o (Powaqa), Kristoffer Joner (Murphy), Paul Anderson (Anderson), Lukas Haas (Jones)

  1. rev·e·nant (noun) a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. A revenant is a visible ghost or animated corpse that was believed to return from the grave to terrorize the living. The word “revenant” is derived from the Latin word, reveniens, “returning” (see also the related French verb “revenir”, meaning “to come back”).

Based on the novel by Michael Punke, director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant is the (relatively) true story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman in 19th ct. America who was mauled by a grizzly bear, and left for dead by companions John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poullter) after they prematurely buried him alive.

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In the Heart of the Sea

ItHotS poster Warner Bros. (2015) 121 min. PG-13

Director: Ron Howard

Screenplay: Charles Leavitt; based on story by Rick Jaffa, Charles Leavitt & Amanda Silver & novel by Nathaniel Philbrick

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle; Editing: Dan Hanley & Mike Hill

Production Design: Mark Tildesley; Set Decoration: Dominic Capon; Costumes: Julian Day; Score: Roque Baños

Stars: Chris Hemsworth (Owen Chase), Benjamin Walker (George Pollard), Cillian Murphy (Matthew Joy), Brendan Gleeson (old Thomas Nickerson), Ben Whishaw (Herman Melville), Tom Holland (young Thomas Nickerson), Frank Dillane (Owen Coffin), Michelle Fairley (Mrs. Nickerson)

The aged survivor of a maritime disaster, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) recounts his tale of woe to a young Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw). When a boy (Tom Holland) in 1819 Nantucket he signed aboard the whale ship Essex, under the inexperienced command of George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker). Having been promised the post himself, resentful first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) has little respect for his captain, and the two men clash constantly over discipline and protocol.

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White House Down

WHD posterColumbia (2013) 131 min. PG-13

Director: Roland Emmerich

Screenplay: James Vanderbilt

Cinematography: Anna Foerster; Editing: Adam Wolfe

Production Design: Kirk M. Petruccelli; Set Decoration: Marie-Soleil Dénommé & Paul Hotte

Costumes: Melissa Bruning; Score: Michael Giacchino

Stars: Channing Tatum (John Cale), Jamie Foxx (President James Sawyer), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Carol Finnerty), James Woods (Martin Walker), Richard Jenkins (Eli Raphelson), Jason Clarke (Emil Stenz), Joey King (Emily Cale), Nicholas Wright (Donnie the Tour Guide)

In White House Down, Jamie Foxx has become president of the United States. Understandably outraged at this fact, an organized troop of home-grown terrorists comprised in equal measure of disgruntled War on Terror vets and white supremacists infiltrate the capital building, intent on extorting government funds while simultaneously launching a nuclear missile attack that will obliterate the Middle East. When they take the president hostage, a Capital policeman rejected as unfit for Secret Service played by Channing Tatum, must emancipate him. The fate of the Western world rests on his broad shoulders. Heaven help us all. Continue reading

Skyfall

Picture1Columbia/MGM (2012) 143 min. PG-13

Director: Sam Mendes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade; based on characters created by Ian Fleming

Cinematography: Roger Deakins; Editing: Stewart Baird

Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Costumes: Jany Temime; Score: Thomas Newman

Stars: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Judi Dench (M), Javier Bardem (Raoul Silva), Naomie Harris (Eve), Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory), Ben Whishaw (Q), Bérénice Lim Marlohe (Sévérine), Albert Finney (Kincade), Ola Rapace (Patrice)

Celebrating the silver anniversary of James Bond on screen, Skyfall is a watershed film that chops the myth into bits and reshuffles the pieces. Reintroducing Miss Moneypenny and Q, and changing the old guard by eliminating Judi Dench’s M character (this is the actress’ final appearance in the role after seven films), replacing her with the equally arch Gareth Mallory of Ralph Fiennes, who played a part akin to Bond in 1999’s big screen version of The Avengers. Dench and Fiennes were destined to Bond together at least on this one project, their clipped Englishness clinking off each other like matching China tea sets. Clearly, Skyfall is simultaneously attempting to re-access the Bond series and reboot it.

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The Brothers Grimm

Dimension Films/MGM (2005) 118 min. PG-13

Director: Terry Gilliam

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel; Editing: Lesley Walker

Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Judy Farr

Costumes: Gabriella Pescucci & Carlo Poggioli

Score: Dario Marianelli

Stars: Matt Damon (Wilhelm Grimm), Heath Ledger (Jacob Grimm), Lena Headey (Angelika), Peter Stormare (Cavaldi), Jonathan Pryce (Delatombe), Monica Bellucci (Mirror Queen), Tomás Hanák (Woodsman), Martin Kavan (Delatombe’s Valet)

There’s a haze of droll waggishness floating about Terry Gilliam’s phantasmagoric fantasy that never quite materializes into definite physical form. The Brothers Grimm remains a leering, overspilling, grotesque gargoyle of a movie yet, unlike most films of similar caliber, the dim light of what was in theory a bright idea almost manages to shine through the muck and mire shoveled atop it. It’s not all bad.

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The Eagle

Focus Features (2011) 114 min. PG-13

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Screenplay: Jeremy Brock; based on The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle; Editing: Justine Wright

Production Design: Michael Carlin; Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway

Costumes: Michael O’Connor

Score: Atli Örvarsson

Stars: Channing Tatum (Marcus Flavius Aquila), Jamie Bell (Esca), Donald Sutherland (Uncle Aquila), Mark Strong (Guern), Tahar Rahim (Seal Prince), Denis O’Hare (Lutorius), Aladár Laklóth (Flavius Aquila)

The Eagle is well crafted, perfectly respectable popcorn entertainment. The majority of the movie was taken on location in Scotland (Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Summer Isles, Achnahaird Bay, etc.) by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, the Oscar-winning cameraman who also shot director Kevin Macdonald’s previous The Last King of Scotland. For The Eagle Mantle has photographed a beautiful expanse of the country, offering a wide variety of scenery, from grassy glens to the snowy Highlands. The result is a variety of gloriously breathtaking vistas. Continue reading

The Hunger Games

Lionsgate (2012) 142 minutes PG-13

Director: Gary Ross

Screenplay: Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray and Gary Ross; based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cinematography: Tom Stern; Editing: Christopher S. Capp, Stephen Mirrione and Juliette Welfling

Production Design: Philip Messina; Set Decoration: Larry Dias; Costumes: Judianna Makovsky; Score: James Newton Howard

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Alexander Ludwig (Cato), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Donald Sutherland (President Snow)

Based as it is on the first novel in a popular trilogy of teen fiction, and given the legion of devoted fans the movie inherited before it was ever released, it’s probably unnecessary to point out at this late stage that The Hunger Games is about a futuristic, state sponsored reality TV show which pits twenty four adolescents against each other in a no-holds barred fight to the finish. Author Suzanne Collins, who also collaborated on the movie’s screenplay with director Gary Ross and Billy Ray, was inspired by the explosion in popularity of elimination round reality programs like Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, The Amazing Race and even American Idol, where the public at large is invited to vote on their favorites, weighing in on who gets axed each week.

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The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

Pacific International Enterprises (1975) 100 min. G

Director: Stewart Raffill

Screenplay: Stewart Raffill; Story: Arthur R. Dubs

Cinematography: Gerard Alcan; Editing: R. Hansel Brown

Production Design: Ronald Kent Foreman

Costumes: Beau Barthel

Score: Gene Kauer and Douglas Lackey

Stars: Robert Logan (Skip Robinson), Susan Damante Shaw (Pat), Hollye Holmes (Jenny), Ham Larsen (Toby), George ‘Buck’ Flower (Boomer)

When I first caught up with it on pay cable as a kid in the 80’s, I was wild about The Adventures of the Wilderness Family and its sequels. I’d been hunting down a DVD in recent years but hadn’t managed to come across one (a special edition has been released but it’s not offered through Netflix yet). Yesterday, by pure chance, I came across an old discarded VHS copy at a rummage sale and as I quickly snatched up and pocketed my find, mused over the priceless treasures some people choose to toss out. At least until I got it home and popped it in an old VCR I keep oiled just for such an emergency. Continue reading

21 Jump Street


21JS posterColumbia/MGM (2012) 109 min. R

Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Screenplay: Michael Bacall; Story: Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill; based on 21 Jump Street (TV) created by Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell

Cinematography: Barry Peterson; Editing: Joel Negron

Production Design: Peter Wenham; Set Decoration: Bob Kensinger

Costumes; Leah Katznelson; Score: Mark Mothersbaugh

Stars: Jonah Hill (Morton Schmidt), Channing Tatum (Greg Jenko), Ice Cube (Cpt. Dickson), Brie Larson (Molly), Dave Franco (Eric), Ellie Kemper (Ms. Griggs), Rob Riggle (Mr. Walters)

Nostalgia seems to come in generational waves. In the self-indulgent 70’s, out of it audiences were nostalgic for the more straight-laced 50’s, with Grease lubricating box office coffers and Happy Days making viewers feel all warm and fuzzy toward The Fonze on TV. In the 90’s it was the 70’s (The Brady Bunch, Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch), and in the second decade of this brave new century we seem to have worked our way straight through the outer edges of the 80’s and to be standing on the cusp of a renaissance of interest in the early 90’s. 21 Jump Street joins the ranks of other big screen adaptations of 80’s ratings hits like The Dukes of Hazzard, Miami Vice and The A-Team and since it’s the only one of those mentioned whose series run bridged two decades, it may very well be in the vanguard of the next made-from-TV wave. Big screen parodies of TGIF titles for the Y2K generation seem imminent and inevitable. Continue reading